Review – Iteaduino Lite “nearly 100% Arduino-compatible” board

Introduction

Over the last year there have been a few crowd-funded projects that offered very inexpensive Arduino-compatible boards. Frankly most of them weren’t anything out of the ordinary, however one of them is quite interesting due to the particular design of the board, and is the subject of this review.

An established company Iteadstudio ran a successful Indiegogo campaign last December to fund their Iteaduino Lite – Most inexpensive full-sized Arduino derivative board”. Having a spare US$5 we placed an order and patiently waited for the board. Being such a low price it was guaranteed to raise the funding – but was it worth the money? Or the effort? Possibly.

The board

In typical fashion the board arrived in bare packaging:

Iteaduino Lite arrived

 The Iteaduino Lite isn’t that surprising at first glance:

Iteaduino Lite bare top

To the new observer, it looks like an Arduino board of some sort. Nice to see all those GPIO pins with double breakouts. No surprises underneath:

Iteaduino Lite bottom

The URL on the bottom is incorrect, instead visit http://imall.iteadstudio.com/iteaduino-lite.html. Looking at the board in more detail, there are some interesting points of difference with the usual Arduino Uno and compatibles.

The USB interface is handled with the Silabs CP2102 USB to UART bridge IC:

Iteaduino Lite CP2102 USB

The next difference is the power circuitry – instead of using a linear voltage regulator, Itead have used a contemporary DC-DC converter circuit which can accept between 7 and 24V DC:

Iteaduino lite power supply

Furthermore, the entire board can operate at either 5V or 3.3V, which is selected with the slide switch in the above image. Finally – the microcontroller. Instead of an Atmel product, Itead have chosen the LogicGreen LGT8F88 microcontroller, a domestic Chinese product:

Iteaduino Lite LGT8F88A MCU

And there are only two LEDs on the Iteaduino Lite, for power and D13. The LED on D13 ins’t controlled via a MOSFET like other Arduino-compatibles, instead it’s simply connected to GND via a 1kΩ resistor.

Getting started with the Iteaduino Lite

The stacking header sockets will need to be soldered in – the easiest way is to insert them into the board, use an shield to hold them in and flip the lot upside down:

Iteaduino lite stacking headers

Which should give you neatly-installed headers:

Iteaduino Lite ready to use

Watch out for the corners of the board, they’re quite sharp. Next, you need to install the USB driver for the CP2102. My Windows 7 machine picked it up without any issues, however the drivers can be downloaded if necessary.

Finally a new board profile is required for the Arduino IDE. At the time of writing you’ll need Arduino IDE v1.0.5 r2. Download this zip file, and extract the contents into your ..\Arduino-1.0.5-r2\hardware folder. The option should now be available in the Tools > Board menu in the IDE, for example:

Iteaduino Lite Arduino IDE

From this point you can run the blink example to check all is well. At this point you will realise one of the limitations of the Iteaduino Lite – memory. For example:

Iteaduino Lite Arduino IDE memory

You only have 7168 bytes of memory for your sketches – compared to 32, 256 for an Arduino Uno or compatible. The reason for this is the small capacity of  …

The LogicGreen LGT8F88 microcontroller

This MCU is a Chinese company’s answer to the Atmel ATmega88A. You can find more details here, and Itead also sells them separately. The LGT8F88 offers us 8Kbyte of flash memory of which 0.7KB is used by bootloader, 1 KB of SRAM and 504 bytes (count ‘em) of EEPROM. Apparently it can run at speeds of up to 32 MHz, however the LGT8F88 is set to 16 MHz for the Iteaduino Lite.

According to Logic Green, their LGT8F88 ”introduce a smart instruction cache, which can fetch more instructions one time, effectively decrease memory accessing operations“. So to see if there’s a speed bump, we uploaded the following sketch - written by Steve Curd from the Arduino forum. It calculates Newton Approximation for pi using an infinite series:

For a baseline comparison, an Arduno Uno R3 completes the calculations in 5563 ms:

Iteaduino Lite Uno speed test

… and the Iteaduino Lite completed it in 5052 ms:

Iteaduino Lite speed test

So that’s around a 10% speed increase. Not bad at all. The LGT8F88 also has the requisite GPIO, SPI, and I2C available as per normal Arduino Uno boards. You can download the data sheet with more technical details from here. Frankly the LGT8F88 is an interesting contender in the marketplace, and if Logic Green can offer a DIP version at a good price, the ATtiny fans will have a field day. Time will tell.

Power Circuit

The DC-DC circuit promises 5V output, with up to 24V DC input – so we cranked the input to 24V,  put a 1A load on the 5V output – and put the DSO over 5V to measure the variations – with a neat result:

Iteaduino lite PSU test

So no surprises there at all, the Iteaduino Lite gives you more flexible power supply options than the usual Arduino board. However an eagle-eyed reader notes that a few of the capacitors are only rated at 25V – especially the two right after the DC socket/Vin. You can see this in the schematic (.pdf). So take that into account, or drop your Vin to something more regular such as below 12V.

Conclusion

The Iteaduino Lite is an interesting experiment in bargain Arduino-compatible boards. If you can live with the memory restrictions then for the price you have a very cheap board. However for the experimenter, beginner or Arduino enthusiast – you’ll need more flash memory and SRAM.

At the end of the day – why bother with this board? For a little extra you can get boards with the ATmega328P or 32U4 which gives you 100% compatibility. Nevertheless, this was an interesting experiment. Full-sized images are available on flickr. And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my fantastic book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

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John Boxall

Founder, owner and managing editor of tronixstuff.com.

14 Responses to “Review – Iteaduino Lite “nearly 100% Arduino-compatible” board”

  1. Phil says:

    Thanks for the writeup, still waiting for mine to arrive, the reduced memory situation is a bit of a shock though.

  2. Tex says:

    Hi John,
    So what exactly makes it only “nearly 100% Arduino-compatible” rather than fully compatible? Is it simply the limited memory? Or are there other physical/software compatibility issues awaiting?

    And I wonder if the switcher RF noise & relatively high ripple on the 5V rail will cause a problem with the ADC or wireless shields?

  3. Lawrence says:

    Hello,

    thanks for your write up — how compatible would you think it be with the projects you have written in your book? I would like to get your book but not sure how much of this is applicable to this small board.

    thanks.

    • John Boxall says:

      Hi
      Please do not use this board for use with “Arduino Workshop”. Instead, use an Arduino Uno:
      http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardUno
      or compatible board such as a Freetronics Eleven:
      http://www.freetronics.com/products/eleven
      Here’s a 20% discount code for Freetronics – SCFEB14 expires end of February.

      • Lawrence says:

        HI John,
        thanks for your reply. it looks like the freetronics board costs almost as much as the raspberry pi. i have already in my possession the iteaduino lite but perhaps may look into the uno down the road and then pair it with your book then.

        would you be able to elaborate on the compatibility issues you see between these iteaduino and your projects?

        thanks,
        Lawrence

      • John Boxall says:

        As per the conclusion, memory. Get a Uno or compatible.

  4. Ralph says:

    Other boards have proven the market for 8KB arduino compatible boards, so the flash size isn’t a showstopper.
    The different instruction timing will be an issue for things like v-usb, software serial, etc.

    • Tex says:

      Thanks Ralph – that’s the sort of thing I was wondering about earlier. Given that, I guess that I just don’t get where this thing fits in (apart from the price – and it’s not really that much cheaper than a knockoff from DX etc).

      Then again, I’m probably a bit old-school and don’t really get why people use Arduinos as anything other than a toy or dev board – the whole “stack an Arduino and some shields together, put it in a box, and call it finished!” concept seems a bit odd to me…

  5. Ralph says:

    Given that they have icsp pads that are unusable with the lgt, I suspect they’ll produce a uno compatible version with an ATmega328-au for a couple dollars more.

  6. bob says:

    Buyer beware…Itead has HORRIBLE support. I received a faulty product and cannot get a reply in any fashion for support / return info. They give the impression they are selling cutting edge products but it appears they want the consumer to do the testing at their time / expense. If you need a reliable product for a deadline or need it to work as advertised you may consider something that has been proven to work.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Community active contributors, John Boxall of tronixstuff, received his Iteaduino Lite and wrote a review of the development board.  Summary is that the microcontroller (LogicGreen LGT8F88) is a Chinese […]


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